Love or Die: Christ's Wake-Up Call to the Church
By Alexander Strauch
: Lewis & Roth
Reviewed by Dr. Irv Busenitz
20.1 (Spring 2009) : 124-125
This small volume is another valuable contribution to the healthy function of ministry in the local church. Pastor of Littleton Bible Chapel for more than thirty years, Strauch has written widely on the topic of love, especially as it applies to fostering a church environment of loving leadership and loving community among the saints. This volume is a continuation of that theme, with the hope that “my efforts awaken Christians to the need for our personal lives and our local churches to be marked by the love of Jesus Christ” (2).
Beginning with the premise, “Love is essential to everything we do in Christian life and ministry” (2), Strauch divides the brief treatise into two sections. Part One, The Problem of Lost Love, is based on Revelation 2:4. Part Two, How to Cultivate Love, is born out of Hebrews 10:24. The book closes with a five-lesson Study Guide, a Scripture Index, and a list of the Fifty Key Texts on Love, providing a treasure-trove of practical resources for personal or group study and discussion.
With his usual insightfulness, Strauch corrects a number of misconceptions about love. For example, noting that love does not require compromise or the equivocation of truth, he writes, “Churches today need to understand that hatred of evil and falsehood is not a contradiction of love, but an essential part of genuine Christian love (1 Cor. 13:6). Love abhors ‘what is evil’ and clings ‘to what is good’ (Rom. 12:9)” (8).
Strauch lays a strong foundation for the love requirement: “The one quality … that should beautify every believer and every church, regardless of giftedness or personality, is love” (11). He points out that the first and second great commandments are love for God and neighbor (Matt 22:37-39). He adds that true discipleship requires denying self and loving God above all others (Matt 10:37-38) and that God’s very nature and essence is love (1 John 4:8, 16). “Love for God and neighbor lies at the very heart of genuine spiritual life. Thus, Revelation 2:4 is a wake-up call to all churches: love or die!” (19).
Focusing on the remedy in the second half of the book, the author employs Heb 10:24 to launch a discussion of how to cultivate love. He advocates six things that will revive genuine love and renew spiritual health:
Study love—“By saturating your mind with biblical love, you will know what God requires of you and you will grow in love. You will also be able to guard yourself from the loss of love” (31; cf. his Fifty Key Texts on Love in Appendix B).
Pray for love—“If ever we are to love as Christ loved, we must pray for the Holy Spirit’s enablement” (33; cf. Eph 3:14-19; 1 Thess 3:12; Phil 1:9).
Teach love— “In an age of biblical illiteracy, believers need to know the truth about love… . Believers need to be taught that the Christian life is to be characterized by Christ’s total, self-giving love” (42, 43).
Model love— “Since imitating others is a fundamental way in which we learn, it is important that we not only teach what the Bible says about love but that we model it. This is why the apostles modeled Christ’s love and why Paul calls all believers to ‘be imitators of God’ and live a life of love like his Son, Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:1-2)” (51).
Guard love—“Cultivating love in the church must include the negative aspect of guarding against and warning about the dangers that threaten our love for God and our neighbor…. In this world, which is hostile to Christ, plenty of contenders vie for our love. That is why the Bible says ‘Keep yourselves in the love of God’ (Jude 21)” (57).
Practice love—“We must be practitioners of love, not theorists” (65; cf. 1 John 3:16b; Rom 12:9).
Jesus does not say that the Ephesian church had no love; rather, they had abandoned the love they once had— their first love. In Love or Die, Strauch not only calls on Christians to reexamine the true condition of our love for God but also provides helpful steps that will revive, nurture, and motivate both ourselves and others to love “in deed and in truth.”